All the President’s Men is a movie that lives in the newsroom and in front of typewriters. The people involved never sleep and live on junk food, washed down with their 15th cup of coffee while wearing the same clothes for days on end. Journalists don’t live a glamorous life, but unlike being a policeman, as one you can expect to get in a gunfight every day.
Validated through the real-life story of reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and their exposure of the Watergate scandal, this is a movie that believes in the work of its subjects.
Woodward (Robert Redford)—a new kid on the block who is unsure of his own work but strives to authenticate it— and Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman)—a man with more experience and journalistic savvy— are exactly the kind of journalists I described earlier. They don’t behave like other human beings: They never sleep beyond the occasional cat-nap and they don’t eat much and when they do it’s always McDonald’s (okay maybe that part other Americans can relate to). But that’s because they are hot on the trails of a ground-breaking story, and they have no time for petty human indulgences.
These are men who are hunting down the truth even though the abuses of higher power are stopping them at every turn. People refuse to give them the goods, and when they think they’re on the right track they end up talking to the wrong person and the story goes cold. They spend tireless hours in the newsroom, which they’re either the only ones in it or they have to cover one ear when on the telephone to blot out all the hustle and bustle.
This is a journalist’s movie through and through. It emphasizes the intensity and excitement of chasing down leads and illuminates all the nooks and crannies of a newsroom, the desks so cluttered you can barely tell whose is whose, editors who debate your skills but will stick with you till the end, and even having to pull a few a tricks to get what you need (not the other kind of tricks, but actual schemes).
As well, it not only works as the best possible portrayal and testament of the press ever—but also as an engrossing film. The overhead shot of Redford and Hoffman digging through library records, the one shot of Redford running through the dark streets thinking he was being followed only to turn around and see no one was there are classic scenes of the era. Lines like “the trick is not minding” when G. Gordon Liddy holds his hand over a candle or, “Grab them by the balls, and the mind and body will follow”, are not only examples of great characterizations of the hard men Woodward and Bernstein are up against, but of a perfect script too.
Filled with rich detail of a world too few actually get to see, plenty of intense scenes, stunning work by Redford and Hoffman and a focus on the work that has influenced great modern films like Zodiac and Zero Dark Thirty, All the President’s Men is an important, eternal 70’s classic. If you are striving to be a journalist, then this movie is essential and will make you want to jump in even more. If it doesn’t, then I suggest you seek a different line of work (taxidermy, perhaps).